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Large Dams: Can We Do without Them?

Author(s): Pradip Baijal and P. K. Singh

Source: Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 35, No. 19 (May 6-12, 2000), pp. 1659-1666
Published by: Economic and Political Weekly
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Large Dams: Can We Do Without Them?
Dams and particularly large dams, are required to meet the increasing demand for water,
foodgrains, flood control, supply of power, particularly peaking power, and supply of
carbon-free energy. However, there are apprehensions about the effects of hydel projects,
especially large dams on ecology and society, and displacement of people. We need to
balance current needs with long-term sustainable development. This article analyses the
various options on the basis of data available.


I With the growth in population, the Therefore,

re- irrigation should be accorded
Arguments For quirement of water is bound to increase.top priority. The alternative would be to
The water use pattern of the country importin foodgrains (as we used to do in the
er capita water availability of water 1997 and projected use pattern in 1960s 2050 under PL-480). Out of the total
in India has declined from 6,400 is given in Table 1. As can be seen fromgross cropped area of 186 million hect-
cubic metres in 1951 to about 1,967 the table, even if we tap 690 cu km ares,ofa potential to irrigate 90 million
cubic metres at present [Verma 1999]. surface water resources through storage,hectares has so far been created. If we
This is likely to fall further to 1,400 cubic the total water resources available of were
1,122able to bring 50 million ha of land
metres by 2050 AD [Verma 1999]. The cu km (690 cu km + 432 cu km ground- under irrigation, the country would be
'monsoon' brings in a lot of water in our water) would be less than the projected producing 100 million tonnes of
country during the 3-4 monsoon months, demand of 1364 cu km in 2050. foodgrains. Irrigation could be made avail-
but unfortunately, 75 per cent of the Drinking Water: A large number able of through major and medium projects,
monsoon water drains into the sea after minor surface water schemes, or ground-
people of this country do not have potable
flooding a large land area as we don't have water to drink. While groundwaterwater at schemes.
sufficient means to store it. About 75 per many places is saline and not fit for humanIt is estimated that the ultimate potential
cent of rainfall takes place from June to consumption, rainwater after treatmentof canirrigation from minor surface water and
September. In the past, water stored in be ideal for human consumption. While groundwater is about 17.4 million ha (12.2
small ponds, etc, used to last months as water in minor projects evaporates with million ha already developed) and 64
the population was small. Now with the advent of summer, there appearsmillion to ha (45.9 million ha already develop-
manifold increase in population, these be no solution for drinking water excepted) respectively [CWC 1998]. The other
small ponds/dams have become in-major dams. A large number of cities - big main source of irrigation is through major
or small - depend on this source of water
sufficient. Small holdings of water do not and medium projects and these would have
last long because of seepage and evapo- for supplying drinking water throughout to be developed to their full potential.
ration. This highlights the urgent need the year. Flood control: On an average, 1000
of having large storage capacity to pro- Agricultural: As per CWC (1998) sta- persons are killed annually due to intense
perly store water, which not only meets tistics, the gross area sown in 1993-94 was floods in several parts of the country,
the domestic requirements of the 186.4 million ha. It is well known that while several lakhs are rendered homeless.
people throughout the year but also yield from irrigated land (2.5 tonnes per
Property and livestock worth several crores
irrigates their land. hectare) is more than from unirrigatedofor rupees are destroyed. As per the CWC,
The Central Water Commission (CWC) rainfed land (0.5 tonnes per hectare). in We 1996, 1,271 persons lost their life due
has assessed India's total water availabil- have witnessed the grand potential to offloods and crops worth Rs 3,839 million
irrigation through Bhakhra Nangal dam,
ity at2,301 cu km. Out of this, surface water were damaged. These floods affected an
resources are estimated at 1,869 cu km, area of 7.36 million ha and 39 million
which has transformed Punjab and Haryana
and rechargeable groundwater resources into a foodgrain bowl. The irrigation people. It has been known that large stor-
at 432 cu km. It is believed that only 690 potential, which was 22.6 million haage in dams helps in managing floods effec-
cu km of surface water resources (out of1951 (pre-plan), has increased to 90 mil-
1,869 cu km) can be utilised by storage. lion ha in 1996-97. The ultimate irrigation
Table 1: Projected Water Use Pattern
The estimated water utilisation is ex- potential from major, medium and minor (Cu km)
pected to be 1,122 cu km. At present irrigation
the (surface and groundwater) Water
has use 1997 2050
storage capacity of all dams in India been
is 174fixed at 139.9 million ha.
cu km [CWC 1998]. This is less than Athe Irrigation 501 1060
rapid increase in foodgrain production
Domestic Water Supply 30 90
can be achieved by optimal management
capacity of Kariba dam in Zambia/Zimba- Industry 20 64
bwe (180.6 cu km), and only 12 cuofkm land through better irrigation systems,Energy 20 150
Others 34
more than Aswan High Dam of Egypt. useThe
of fertilisers, seeds, and pesticides.
Total 605 1364
projects under construction will have a
However, in absence of irrigation, other
storage capacity of about 75 cu km.
measures cannot improve productivity. Source: Verma

Economic and Political Weekly May 6, 2000 1659

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tively and reducing the sufferings of significantly after 1980. It has been sug- - Biomass burning: Fuel wood burning,
millions. Small dams overflow are not an gested that the thermal and hydel power shifting cultivation, animal dung, etc,
effective deterrent against the recurring mix should be in the ratio of 60:40. The contributes to emissions of CO2 and N20.
floods. Residents of Surat city were rid of country has relied on thermal power - Agricultural practices: Methane is re-
yearly floods after construction of Ukai projects, which contributes about 75 per leased from paddy cultivation; nitrog-
dam. It is obvious that only a large water cent of power. These thermal power enous fertilisers cause emission of N20.
body can control the menace of floods. projects use fossil fuels, which are not only - Deforestation: Share of river valley
Power: An indicator of the living stan- depleting fast but also contribute towards power project is less than 12 per cent, of
dards of people is per capita consumption environmental pollution. The remaining which hydro power projects form a small
of electricity. The perennial shortage of life of fossil fuels in India as per the Ninth fraction.
power in the country is experienced by all Five-Year Plan shows the urgency of
of us. According to CEA data, the shortagedeveloping non-fossil fuel based power Table 3: Hydel Power Share of
Some Countries
of power during peak hours is more severe projects (Table 5). (Percentage)
than energy shortage. As can be seen from It has been estimated that the country has
Table 2 the gap between peak demand and hydel potential of about 84,000 MW at CountryPower Share of Hydel Country Share of Hyde!
in Total Power in Total
energy requirement has persisted and will 60 percentload factor. Most of this potential
continue to remain so because of the is in the northern and north-eastern re- Austria 64.5 Italy 31.7
Brazil 95.0 Japan 20.2
gions (Table 6). Data collected from the
inherent pattern of demand and the reduc-
Canada 63.0 Norway 99.1
ing hydel-thermal mix. Central Electricity Authority (CEA) indi- China 30.6 Spain 37
The world over, countries having rich cate that while hydel potential at 60 per France 24.7 Switzerland 75.6
water and river systems have effectively cent load factor in south and west has Germany 7.14 Sweden 47.6
India 24.08 US 11.7
exploited these for hydel power genera- either been created or under construction,
north and north-east regions have not been
tion. The share of hydel power in the total Source: CBIP (1997).
able to develop the available potential
power produced for some countries are Table 4: Share of H
of hydel power. Considering the huge
presented in Table 3. As can be seen from Total Power in India
this table, that some of the developed availability of hydel power in the north and
Year Total Hydel Hydel Power
also the adverse hydel-thermal mix lead-
countries have a major share of hydel power. Installed Power to Total
However, some critics of hydel power ing to uneconomic operation of the grid Capacity Capacity (Per Cent)
and very large shortage of peaking power,
refer to the rather low share of hydel power 1947 1361.76 508.13 37.31
in industrialised countries like the US andit would be logical to produce more hydel
1950 1712.52 559.29 32.66
Germany. While it is true that the share power in the northern region, than is being
1955 2694.82 939.48 34.86
1959-60 3873.17 1530.15 39.51
planned at presently.
of hydel power in some countries is low,
1962-63 5801.19 2936.35 50.62
it should be seen that European countries Carbon-free energy: Global warming 1970-71 14708.95 6383.23 43.40
are connected through a common grid anddue to the greenhouse effect has become 1979-80 28447.83 11383.97 40.02
a major cause of concern. It is feared that
the peaking requirement occurs at differ- 1989-90 63636.34 18307.63 28.77
the earth's average temperature would rise
ent times. In such cases, the grid can draw
(up to
peak power from Norway, Sweden, Swit- by 1.5?C -2.5?C by 2020 (associated with Sep99) 94481.64 22752.28 24.08
zerland and Austria. Similarly, Canada the
is rise of mean sea level by 15 to 72 cms)
Source: CBIP (1997).
connected through the same grid to the due to trapping of sun's heat in gases
US and the peak demands, which arises at 1999]. Table 5: Life Indices of Some
different times, can be met through hydel Table 8 shows that emission of CO2 is Important Minerals
the main contributor of greenhouse effect.
power. Further, they have excess installed Mineral Recoverable as on Balance Life at
capacity to maintain quality and they canVarious other factors responsible for green- January 1,1996 2001-02 Level
house effects are:
afford thermal (oil) based projects, which Production (Years)
we have avoided or should avoid in view - Fossil fuels: Burning of fossil fuels inCrude oil 727 MT 13.88
of foreign exchange drain on the economy.thermal power plants (75 per cent of totalNatural gas 640 B CuM 15.38
In India, the share of hydel power inpower in India) and transportation systemNon-coking coal 56772 MT 170
Coking coal 15961 MT 314
the total power generated was significant(railways and roads) generates CO2.
during initial period of planning. It was Source: Ninth Five-Year Plan.

as high as 50 per cent of the total power

produced in 1962-63. This may be be- Table 2: Energy and Peak Demand Shortage in 1999
cause of the priority accorded in the first
Month Energy Peak
few plans to agriculture sector, which led
Requirement Availability Slrtage Demand Availability Shortage
to development of multi-purpose river (MU) (MU) (Per Cent) (MW) (MW) (Per Cent)
valley projects for irrigation and incidental
April 40169 36946 8.0 68385 59435 13.1
benefits of power. In subsequent plans,
May 38991 37070 4.9 65737 59459 9.5
more emphasis was placed on industrial June 37151 35462 4.5 64543 58868 8.8
sector, and setting up of coal-based power July 38346 36885 3.8 64039 58884 8.0
projects. August 40051 38682 3.4 67146 60899 9.3
September 39816 38088 4.3 68067 61215 10.1
As can be seen from Table 4, the that
April-September 234524 223524 4.9 68385 59435 13.1
share of hydel power started declining

1660 Economic and Political Weekly May 6, 2000

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The 'Kyoto Protocol' to the United can be seen from the above, hydel power's the country to solve the problems of irri-
Nations Framework Convention on contribution in the greenhouse effect is gation, agricultural productivity, floods,
Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is
negligible and it can be termed ecology water scarcity and supply of power.
aimed at reducing generation of green- friendly. Following the spirit of the Kyoto
house gases, has assigned emission targets Protocol for reduction of greenhouse gases, II
to individual developed countries, which we should plan those projects which cause Arguments Against
average 5.2 per cent reduction relative to
minimum generation of greenhouse gases.
1990 emission level during commitment Since developing countries like India can If hydel projects, more so large dams,
period 2008 to 2012. The targets are in obtain
the financial and technical resources have so many inherent advantages then
following bands. Reduction of 8 perfrom centdeveloped countries under the CDM, why are there apprehensions about them?
for the European Union and several Eastprojects become more attractive.It is feared that large dams impound large
European countries; 7 per cent for the We US; have already seen the tremendous amount of water over a certain area of land,
6 per cent for Japan, Canada, Hungary impact
and of Bhakra Dam in the northern which creates ecological and seismic
region of the country. Aswan High Dam
Poland; 5 per cent for Croatia; stabilisation imbalance. The main apprehension comes
for New Zealand, the Russian Federation (AHD) in Egypt attracted a lot of criticismon account of ecological and environmen-
and Ukraine; increase of 1 per cent fromforalmost all quarters during its con- tal concerns and also displacement of
Norway, 8 per cent for Australia and 10
struction. It has a huge storage capacity people by these projects.
per cent for Iceland. of 162 cu km and installed capacity of Seismicity: It is feared that the impound-
The emission standard reduction under 2,100 MW. However, after its completion, ing of water in big dams may accentuate
the protocol is not applicable to India but it has controlled flooding of the Nile in big mass and pressure, which are enough
major developed countries have been stat-Egypt. Cropped area has doubled, even to cause/initiate seismic activity. A study
ing that for attaining UNFCCC objectives,trebled. AHD significantly reduced mis- was undertaken by US Army Corps of
major emitters among developing coun- eries of Egypt during the nine-year period Engineers (USACE) in 1982 to ascertain
tries like India and China should also take of drought (1979 to 1987). The memory the effect of large dams on seismic activity
on greenhouse gases limitation commit- of flooding of vast stretches in UP, Haryana,[Sharma nd]. After studying large dams,
ments. Under the protocol, a mechanism West Bengal has faded long back, after the they found no direct link between the
called 'Clean Development Mechanism' construction of major hydel projects. How- induced earthquake and large dams. It was
(CDM) has been introduced, wherein ever, Bihar is still ravaged by recurring
developed countries may fund projects in floods because we have failed to store Table 8: Contribution of Gases to
developing countries for reduction of water in this part of lower Himalayas. Greenhouse Effect
greenhouse gases. The CDM will assist Similarly droughts have also become a
Gas Contribution to
developed countries in achieving compli- thing of the past in large parts of the Greenhouse
ance with their emission commitments country with irrigation facilities. Three Heat (Per Cent)
under the protocol. The CDM allows consecutive
a droughts during 1985-86 to
Carbon dioxide (CO2) 50
developed country to offset its domestic 1987-88 indicated that minor irrigation Methane (CH4) 20
emissions against reduction in developing dams dry up soon and groundwater de- Chloro fluoro carbon (CFC) 15
countries and at the same time the CDM pletes fast while major projects insulate Nitrous oxide (N20) 6
Others 9
will assist sustainable development in the agriculture from fluctuations in rainfall.
developing countries. The principles and Large dams have become a necessity for Source: Naid
rules of CDM are not yet decided and are
Table 6: Regionw
under negotiation. The purpose of CDM,
according to the protocol, "...shall be to Region Number of Schemes Identified Potential at 60 Per Cent Probable Installed
assist parties not included in Annexure I Storage Run of River Total Load Factor (MW) Capacity (MW)
in achieving sustainable developmentNorth 45 266 311 30,155 53,405
and contributing to ultimate objectiveWest 92 29 121 5,679 8,928
South 91 54 145 10,763 16,446
of conventions, and to assist parties in-East 30 45 75 5,590 10,964
cluded in Annexure I in achieving com-North-east 73 120 193 31,857 58,956
pliance with their quantified emissionTotal 331 514 845 84,044 1,48,699
limitations and reduction commitments".
Source: CBIP (1997).
The CDM is a project-based mechanism.
Developed countries may involve private Table 7: Status of Hydropower Pro
and/or public entities for funding green- Region Potential at 60 Probable Capacity Under Developed or under
house gases reduction projects in Per Cent Load Installed Created Development/ Construction/Sanctioned
Factor (MW) Capacity (MW) Sanctioned to Potential at 60 Per Cent
developing countries.
(MW) Load Factor (Per Cent)
The international concern for reduction
Northern 30155 53405 7695 6789 48
of greenhouse gases is shared by the World
Western 5679 8928 3383 4345 136
Bank, it is restricting sanction of funds for Southern 10763 16446 9028 1506 97
thermal projects. Similiarly, funding under Eastern 5590 10964 1871 2630 80
bilateral, multilateral agencies and foreign North-Eastern 31857 58956 567 565 3.5
All-India 84044 148699 22544 15835 45
banks is also showing signs of being
restrictive for thermal power projects. As Source: CEA data.

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reported that no evidence of induced seis- Siltation: The problem of soil erosion for thousands of years and continues to-
micity has so far been found in the case of has become more acute because of mas- day. More and more people are moving
Koyna and Aswan. There is a false as- from rural areas to urban areas. With the
sive degradation of forest, cutting of trees
sumption that every earthquake occurring for fire and other uses. However, catch-tremendous impact of media, an intermix-
on or near a reservoir is induced by the ment area treatment and command area ing of diverse cultures has been taking
reservoir. The example of earthquake in development works help in checking soil place. Further, expansion of roads and
Jabalpur may help in ascertaining whether erosion. Moreover, power generated outrailway networks has brought people of
dams induce earthquake (Table 9). of dams could reduce the need for fire different regions together. People's cus-
The world's highest dam Nurek in USSR toms and traditions are being influenced
wood and reduce felling of trees. In fact,
(300M high earthen dam) has already even without being displaced. However,
compulsory afforestation is sometimes
withstood seismic pressure of 7 on Richter ignoring all this, the rehabilitation and
taken up on a large scale along with catch-
scale. Further, Koyna Dam experienced resettlement of displaced people should be
ment area treatment, which helps in arrest-
earthquake (6.5) in 1967, much after the ing soil erosion. done in such a manner that they do not feel
impoundment of water in 1962. Aswan Displacement of people: Displacement culturally/socially isolated and economi-
project was filled in 1964, but experiencedof people living on the proposed project cally vulnerable at the new place of habi-
an earthquake (5.5) in 1981 [Naidu 1999]. site and the area to be submerged has tat. A person displaced from Himachal's
Another study conducted by Virginia become a very emotional issue. Most hilly of terrain should not be resettled in the
Institute, Lexington, US concluded that the hydel projects are located in remote Thar Desert of Rajasthan and vice versa.
Koyna and Aswan dams do not yield lack and inaccessible areas, where local popu- Similarly, as far as possible people of one
evidence to corelate seismicity and im- lation is either illiterate or have marginal geographical/social area should be re-
poundment. means of employment, the per capita settled elsewhere in the same area, so that
No dam has reportedly been destroyed income of families is low. However, the they do not lose social contacts. It should
in any earthquake. Some earthquakes near moment any village is earmarked for take- be ensured that their displacement does
dams have occurred but they cannot be over by dam or any other developmental not become a nightmare for them.
attributed to dams or impounding of water. activity, social transformation takes place The RR plans have to be specially drafted
The fact that dams have stood as sound immediately. In the last few years, the and implemented to mitigate problems
as before and even during, a quake indi- project implementing authorities have arising out of uprootment for all, whether
cates that the design is and can be done implemented R and R in accordance with rich or poor, land owner or encroacher,
with enough margin to withstand earth- a well drafted 'Rehabilitation and Re- farmer or tenant, employee or employer.
quakes. We do not stop construction of settlement Plan' (R and R Plan), whichAnot properly drafted R and R plan would
multi-storeyed buildings because they are only compensates for the land and build- improve living standards of displaced
more prone to seismic risks. ings acquired from landholders butpeople also after displacement. The residents
Water logging: Another negative im- provides for improvement of their living of villages around Bhakhra Nangal,
pact attributed to dams and hydel projects conditions. Sometimes lure of compen- Nagarjuna Sagar, Tehri, Bhillai steel plant,
relates to water logging in areas around sation attracts families from nearby Bokaro steel plant, Bailadilla iron ore
villages to encroach upon whatever project
them. It is feared that water logging causes land in Bastar and numerous other
rise in water table in nearby areas leadingis available to be eligible for compensa- development sites are better off than people
to salinity and oxygen depletion. While tion. Sometimes local landlords and other living in villages in whose vicinity no
the critics of dams allege that dams end vested interests attempt to mislead thedevelopment project came in.
up causing water logging in more area than local villagers about imminent ecological Capital requirement: The estimated
brought under irrigation, the data com- and environmental disasters because of the completed capital cost of some of the recent
piled by the CWC (1998) indicate that 8.51 project. Considering the prevalence of hydel and thermal projects are given in
million ha of land was affected due to poverty, illiteracy and superstition in these Table 10. Estimated completed cost per
water logging, all of this cannot be attrib- these gullible uneducated local MW of hydel is more or less equal to
uted to dams alone. This is less than 10 villagers are easily influenced. However, thermal. The environmental impact cost
per cent of the total irrigation potential since the compensation offered is gener- on generation in the coal fired thermal
created so far. The increase in salinity andous and it is expected that the project project is 7 per cent of the project cost,
water logging is not directly connectedwould to ensure some econom;c activity whereas it is 1.38 per cent to 4.5 per cent
dams but is associated with over irrigation,resulting in employment to local people, in the case of hydel. Moreover, while
improper drainage conditions and poor a number of residents may not oppose such comparing cost-benefit ratio, the invest-
management of water resources in some a project. It is possible however, that same ment cost is attributed to various compo-
command areas. However, because of locals with vested interests, threatened with nents such as hydropower, irrigation, flood
increase in photosynthesis rate from the loss of power, may wish to stall the work
crops and trees in the irrigated areas, the using ecological issues for the purpose. Table 9: Magnitude of Earthquake in
Bargi Dam
overall availability of oxygen improves. It is a fact that people are displaced by
Rise in overall water table improves green- the projects from their ancestral homes. Date Magnitude of Water level in
Earthquake Bargi Dam (Mts)
ery in the area, but might affect some deep- Displacement of these people would
rooted trees, which need to be transplanted. undoubtedly disconnect them from their June 2, 1927 6.5 There was no dam
The humid environment around the dam past, culture, customs and traditions. But October 30, 1993 3.8 422.25 M
(FRL at 422.78M)
site makes a favourable change in theone must not forget that migration/dis- May 22, 1997 6.0 406.70 M
irrigated area. placement of people has been taking place

1662 Economic and Political Weekly May 6, 2000

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control, water supply, etc, and cost-benefit makes thermal power expensive after some long run, the hydel power projects have
analysis is done by estimating direct period. The initial cost of generation of distinctive advantage in providing useful
benefit for each component. However, hydel power may be slightly more than power, particularly peaking power at
some of the indirect benefits, which cannot the thermal power, (Tanakpur, 120 MW, unbelievable low price.
be quantified and therefore not accounted 1992 is producing hydel power at 137 Ignoring individual projects for com-
for, are: navigation, development of paise/unitcompared toTalchar, 1000MW, parisons, a fair understanding can be made
fisheries, tourism, employment generation, 1995-96 at 125.60 paise/unit). But in the by tabulating average cost of generation
poverty alleviation, and check rural to
urban migration. Table 10: Estimated Cost per MW of Hydel and Thermal Power
As will be shown in subsequent para- Thermal Hydel
graphs, hydropower is the cheapest source Project Estimated Cost/MW Project and Estimated Cost/MW
of power in the long run as it does not and Capacity Completed (Rs Crore) Capacity in MW Completed (Rs Crore)
in MW Cost (Rs Crore) Cost (Rs Crore)
involve fuel cost component and is thus
free from cost escalations. Thus it can be Vizag, 1040 4628 4.45 Teesta V, 510 2568 5.10
said that the notion that hydel projectsTorranglu, 260 1093 4.20 Chamera 1, 540 2114 3.91
Jojo Bera, 240 1025 4.27 Vishnu Prayag, 400 1614 4.10
require higher investments is misconceived Talchar-Il, 2000 7679 3.83 Kopili, 250 378 1.49
and based on wrong assumptions. The Surat Garh, 500 2057 4.11 Lower Periyar, 180 327 1.81
very important advantage of hydel powerSource: CEA data.
is its negligible recurring cost of genera-
tion. While thermal plants require fossil Table 11: Comparison of Cost of Generation of Thermal and Hydel Power
fuels like coal and oil, some of which are Hydel Thermal
imported causing a heavy drain on theName of Capacity Year of Cost of Name of Capacity Year of Cost of
foreign exchange reserves, hydel projectsProject (MW) Comple- Generation* Project (MW) Comple- Generation*
tion (P/kWh) tion (P/kWh)
runs at negligible costs as they do not in 1997-98 in 1997-98
require much fuel. The charge of electric-
ity paid by consumer consists of two
Matatila 30 1955 11.80 Paras 62.5 1961 200.66
components. The fixed component (FC) is Bhakhra 540 1960-61 11.00 Nellore 30 1965 173.51
meant to serve capital cost of the plant,Rihand 300 1962-66 9.62 Bhusaval 62.5 1996 126.19
420 1979-82
and the energy component (EC) paid
Gandhi Sagar 115 1960-64 10.75
towards fuel, etc. As seen earlier, the
Koyana I and II 560 1962-67 18.50
completed capital cost of both hydel and1970s
thermal power are in the same range ofUkai 300 1974-76 15.72 Nasik 280 1970-71 143.04
630 1979-81
Rs 4-5 crore/MW. The FC decreases over
Nagarjun Sagar 810 1978-85 20.07 Gandhi Nagar 210 1977-82 178.40
time for both hydel and thermal, till the 420 1990-91

time debt is paid. EC increases in the case 210 1998

Ramganga 198 1975-77 68.53 Ukai 640 1976-79 167.91
of thermal power projects because of 210 1985
escalation in fuel prices, but this would be
1980s and 1990s
negligible in the case of hydel projects.
Kadana Wanakbori 240 1979-90 36.92 Vijaywada 420 1979-80 96.93
420 1989-90 114.64
This results in lower levelised (average) 420 1994-94 122.30
tariff for hydel projects in comparison to
Srisailam 770 1982-87 16.33 Koradi 480 1982-83 117.27
thermal projects. Further, because of es- 420 1974-78
Mahi-l 50 1989 98.20 Korba (West) 420 1983-84 70.64
calation in fuel prices, the tariff of thermal
420 1984-85 87.29
power would rise exponentially. In fact, Hasdeo 120 1994 101.96 Khaperkheda 420 1989 120.89
all the hydel projects may start with cost
Note: Cost of generation does not include return on equity, incentiv
of generation slightly more than thermal
and 12 per cent free power for hydel projects.
but this comes down substantially with Source: CEA data.
time. If we compare the cost of generation
Table 12: Comparison of Cost of Generatiqn of NHPC and NTPC Projects
of power from hydel projects and thermal
projects, we would find that hydel power Hydel Thermal
Name of Capacity Year of Cost of Name of Capacity Year of Cost of
is more economical. Some of the projects,
Project (MW) Comple- Generation* Project (MW) Comple- Generation*
other than of NHPC and NTPC, are listed tion (P/kWh) tion (P/kWh)
in Table 11. in 1997-98 in 1997-98

The same scenario emerges, although Salal 690 31 Singarauli 71.54

only marginally differing, if we compareStage I 1987 Unit 1-4 800 1982-83
the cost of generation of power from theStage II 1994 Unit 5-7 1200 1984-87
Tanakpur 120 1992 137 Rihand unit 1-2 1000 1988-89 98.06
contemporary public sector projects
Chamera I 540 1994 156 Feroz Gandi
(NHPC and NTPC) also (Table 12). unit 1-2 ' 420 1988-89 132.10
In the case of thermal projects, though Talchar unit 1-2 1000 1995-96 125.60
the fixed component declines over time,
Note: Cost of generation does not include return on equity, incentive both for thermal
the variable component gains dominance and 12 per cent free power for hydel projects.
because of escalation in prices of fuel. This Source: Hydel - NHPC data; thermal - NTPC data.

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of hydel and thermal power of the state settlement plan and its implementation,hilly terrai
electricity boards (SEBs). Generation from - acquisition of land, Even subm
the hydel projects can be varied as per - general apathy of lenders towards projectpower gen
requirement, whereas it is not possible in financing because of misplaced notions,will indic
case of thermal projects as closing a ther- - remoteness of area of operations, be very e
mal unit and restarting entails tremendous - relatively large percentage of works while considering the quantum of
energy losses. related to civil engineering, whichsubmergence,
is too.
Gestation period: It is true that gestation time consuming, Destruction forests: Loss of forest be-
period of a hydel project is longer than the - geological surprises in the civil works,
cause of any activity is undoubtedly harm-
thermal project but one must not forget the and ful Major causes of de-forestation in our
fact that the life of a hydel project is more - development of infrastructural facili- country are cutting of trees for fuel, re-
than double that of a thermal project. The ties. quirement of wood in construction and
longer gestation period of hydel projects However the long gestation period can buildings, etc. Some other reasons are
may arise out of the following reasons: be reduced to a greater extent by proper destruction of pastureland through exces-
- longer period of assessment of the planning and implementation. With the sive grazing of cattle, shifting jhoom
scheme - investigations of hydrology, aid of satellite and other modern equip- cultivation etc. The loss of forest due to
topography, etc, ment of survey, the investigation time can river valley projects because of submer-
- involvement of large number of agen- be greatly reduced. gence is negligible. Even this loss of area
cies, Submergence oflarge area: The general is compensated by raising afforestation
- longer period in determining and ascer- impression amongst people is that only over the equivalent non-forest area or on
taining ecological and environmental large dams are being constructed and they double the area of degraded forest in case
impact, submerge large tracts of land. The fact of non-availability of non-forest land,
- formulation of rehabilitation and re- is that only storage type multipurpose dams which is binding on the projects in terms
are large in nature and are constructed after of Forest (Conservation) Act 1980. Some
Table 13: Cost of Generation of Hydel
and Thermal Power of SEBs in 1997-98 detailed technological, hydrological, eco- fears have been raised about effect of
(Paise/kwh) logical and environmental investigations. submergence of land on flora and fauna
SEB Hydel Thermal
Wherever possible small dams are con- and possible extinction of some rare spe-
structed. It is also believed that large dams cies of fish. While it may be true that some
APSEB 19.92 117.71
GEB ? 22.69 162.02
cause submergence of large areas and are migratory species may be affected due to
MPEB 74.81 121.25 inferior to small dams. It is argued by creation of dam, there would be a huge
MSEB 31.95 126.09 many that small run of river dams would increase in population of some other spe-
MeSEB 80.84 No thermal st
be an ideal substitute for large dams. This cies because of release of large quantities
TNEB 22.84 175.60
UPSEB 36.83 160.14
arguement do not appear to be true from of nutrients from the rotting of vegetation
PSEB 32.30 154.11
the tabulation of total area under submer- and soil, submerged during filling of the
KEB 29.50 259.12(DG) gence, even for a plains state like Gujarat dam. Even migratory species can be
RSEB 27.73 169.60
(Table 14). Submergence area per storage facilitated by construction of fish ladders
Average 48.24 159.07
capacity in large dams is much less than or fish elevators. Increase in fish popula-
Source: CEA data. medium dams. This would be even less in tion has been observed in many dams.
Right to fishing in the dams can be given
to people displaced because of construc-
Table 14: Submergence per Storage Capacity: Large and Medium
tion of dams. While it is true that large
Large Dam Medium Dam Sardar Sarovar Project
dams cause submergence leading to loss
Storage Capacity (in m cub metre) 15384 1865 9500 of forest area, they also cause conversion
Submerged area in Ha 149847 44834 34867 of wasteland into agriculture land and make
Submerged area per storage capacity (ha/ mcm) 9.74 24 3.67
the area greener. Large dams can also
Source: MWR(1999). become instrumental in improving the en-
vironment, as has been the case in western
Table 15: Power Produced per Hectare
Rajasthan, transformed into a green area
Project Name State Cap (MW) Submerged Area because of Indira Gandhi Canal, which
in Ha Ha/MW
draws water from Bhakra dam. This project
Lok Tak Manipur 105 0 0 has not only allowed farmers to grow crops
Baira Siul Himachal Pradesh 180 15.2 0.08
in the desert, but also stopped spread of
Salal Jammu and Kashmir 690 940 1.36
Chamera-l Himachal Pradesh 540 975 1.81 Thar Desert in adjoining area in Punjab
Dhualiganga-l Uttar Pradesh 280 28.68 0.10 and Haryana [Oberai et al 1999].
Rangit Sikkim 60 19 0.32
Swalkot Jammu and Kashmir 600 940 1.84
Uri Jammu and Kashmir 480 0 0
Dulhasti Jammu and Kashmir 390 85 0.22 Alternatives to Large Dams
Baghlihar Jammu and Kashmir 450 96.63 0.22
Teesta III Sikkim 1200 12 0.01
If we do not construct large dams, the
Total 4975 3111.51 0.62
need for clean incremental power can be
Source: Naidu met from small dams or non-conventional

1664 Economic and Political Weekly May 6, 2000

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sources of energy. Alternatively, the re- - non-availability of sun during monsoon that power generation from these sources
quirement of power can be reduced through and winter period, may become economical in future with
energy conservation/demand side manage- - maintenance of photo-voltaic panels, research and large production of the solar
ment. Let us look at these alternatives. and panels, etc. However, till that time, if we
Small dams: Small dams can be set up - cost of capital and generation. have to fulfil the demands of ever-
Because of the inherent disadvantages
without much displacement and are there- growing population, we may have to cre-
fore favoured at some locations. But if the mentioned above the capacity utilisations ate capacity from the available technolo
overall benefits and techno-economic
of solar power is in the range of 15-20 gies, i e, hydel and thermal.
parametres of large and small damsper cent of the installed capacity.
are Conservation: Some critics suggest that
As per MNES data, the capital cost
examined, the balance of advantage clearly prevailing shortage of energy and peak
lies in favour of large dams. requirement for solar power is Rs 30 crore/ demand could-be met through proper
Non-conventional sources: It is sug- MW and the cost of generation of solar energy conservation and demand-side
gested by a few that we must makephoto use volatic power generation is management (DSM).
of alternative sources of energy genera- Rs 20-25 / kWh. Similarly average area It is true that replacing inefficient energy
tion, which are more environmental required for setting up of the solar power consuming equipment/apparatus with
friendly. It is said that renewable sourcesplant is about 5 ha/MW. more efficient and energy saving equip
of energies like solar and wind power Wind power projects derive energy from ment could reduce the demand; and also
could be an ideal substitute for hydel andthe movement of wind panels. However, inculcating habits of energy conservatio
thermal power. The estimates by the ministry these projects can only be installed at amongst people would ease the shortage
of non-conventional energy resources selected sites only where sufficient wind It appears that the government is alread
(MNES) of the potential of renewable flow is available like in Tamil Nadu, aware of the need for energy conservatio
energy indicate that solar, hydel and ocean Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka,
and is taking necessary action in this
thermal power may have limited potential Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. However,regard. But this cannot be achieved in
in comparison to our demand (Table 16). this technology has not been used short to time. While norms could be defined
The advantages of these sources of energy generate power on a large scale. Some for of production of efficient apparatus/equip-
such as environment-friendly nature, the weaknesses of such projects are: ment, through legislation, its affordability
naturally recycled resource bases, etc, get - movement of wind restricts operability would make it impractical and may not be
cancelled by some strong weaknesses like for about 3-4 months in a year, in the larger interest of the country. Simi-
seasonal availability of energy, large space - availablity of grid for 3-4 months and
requirement, labour intensive nature, pro- need for alternative source of power Table 16: Renewable Energy
Potential in India
hibitive cost, impractical and abysmally during other months, and
low capacity utilisation. Despite this, India - maintenance of wind panels. Energy Source Estimated Potential
has been exploiting these sources of en- Because of the inherent disadvantage Solar 20 MW/ Sqkm
ergies, wherever found feasible, which mentioned above the capacity utilisations Small hydro (up to 15 MW) 1
Wind 20000 MW
becomes evident from Table 17. Various of wind power is in the range of 13-18
Biomass including
fiscal and finacial incentives have been per cent of the installed capacity. co-generation 20500 MW
extended to these projects. These include As per MNES data, capital cost require-Energy from waste 1700 MW
100 per cent accelerated depreciation, ment for wind power is Rs 4-4.5 crore/MW
concessional customs duty, excise and sales and the cost of generation is Rs 2.00-2.50/Table 17: Capacity Addition through
duty exemptions, five-year tax holidays, kWh. But average area required for setting Renewable Energy
industry status, capital subsidy, facility up by of the wind power plant is about 10 Source Capacity as on India's Position
March 1999 in MW in World
SEBs for grid connection, etc. ha/MW (about 5-10 per cent of this is
Solar and wind power are still in nascent required for foundation and roads on Small hydel
form and need research to make them the site). (upto 15 MW) 183.45 10
useful on the required scale. New tech- The capital cost requirement and cost Wind power 1024 4
Biomass 161.4 4
nologies are always expensive, which a
of generation of power from the different Biomass gasifiers 33.90 1
country like India can hardly afford. sources as discussed in the foregoing is Solar 47 MW 3
given in Table 18. Only hydel and thermal
Solar power projects derive energy from 940 KW
grid connected
projects are most viable for our country.
the rays of the sun and the energy gener-
Though wind power appears to be
ated through the photo voltaic cells. This
Table 18: Comparison of Capital Cost
technology has been used on a small scalefavourably placed in view of capital cost and Cost of Generation of Different
and cost of generation, its applicability is
to run cars, generate electricity for houses Sources of Power
or streetlights and some is directly con-seriously hampered because of excessive
Capital Cost Cost of Average Area
nected to grid. However, this technology area requirement, low level of capacity (Rs Crore/MW) Generation Required
has not been used to generate powerutilisation
on (13-18 per cent)'and inherent (Rs/kWh) (Approx)
a large scale. Even developed countries flaws in ensuring continuous supply of (Ha/MW)
have not made reliance on this power power round the clock and round the year. Thermal 4-5 1.59 1
because of inherent flaws in this source As stated earlier, solar and wind power Hydel 4-5 0.48 5*
such as: Solar 30 20-25 5
generation technologies are still in forma-
Wind 4-4.5 2.00-2.50 10
- availability of sun in a day only fortive stages and the drawbacks/flaws may
6-8 hours, be eliminated in the future. It is also likely Note: * depends on terrains.

Economic and Political Weekly May 6, 2000 1665

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larly, compulsory energy audit of the major projects spend more on civil works, less projects do not have scientific foundation,
power users could also contribute towards on equipment, not much suppliers' credit but ecological damage has been used
energy efficiency. A public awakening as an excuse by a few. However social
is available. Maybe our bureaucratic set up
programme can only educate them about problems caused by such projects would
also does not want to support hydel projects
urgent need forenergy conservation, which considering that there are R and R and need to be addressed by implementing
has already been launched. However, it inter-state water issues involved ina generous, detailed and well monitored
will take some time before the mindset of
developing hydel projects. R and R plan. I13
people can be changed. Proper drafting and implementation
Another suggestion of flattening peak of rehabilitation and resettlement plan
[The views expressed in the article are personal
demand is DSM. The DSM mechanism is (R and R plan) can compensate for and not those of the government].
followed, wherever possible. But some placement of people and assuage their
peak demand will remain. As common miseries, the effects of these dams on References
sense would indicate demand for power ecology require serious discussion. How-
would be much greater during evenings ever, during these discussions, one Central
should Board of Irrigation and Power (CBIP)
(1997): 'A Century of Hydro Power
and mornings and also during intense keep in mind that ecology and environ-
Development in India'.
winter and summer. Higher tariff during ment are very fragile and all effortsCentral
shouldWaterCommission (CWC)(1998): 'Water
the peak demand period could be a good be made to cause least disturbance to it. and Related Statistics', July.
answer to flatten the peaking demand. The environment has not only to be Ministry of Water Resources (MWS) (1999):
However, it may have wider ramificationsmaintained in the Himalayas, but also in 'Large Dams vs Small Dams'.
Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, where millions Naidu, B S K (1992): 'Planning and Management
and can be implemented only after a debate.
of Hydro Power Resources in India', CBIP.
of people live. Every effort should be
Further, if our aim is to provide quality - (1999): 'Environmental Concern of Hydro
and reliable power, DSM and energy made to improve the environment of the Projects in Indian Context: Strategy for Further
conservation will not suffice. To meet country as a whole including these cities Development', paper presented at
future demands of power we will have to which have become gas chambers. 'International Workshop on Benefits and
set up additional plants. Some factors cause more damage to en- Concern About Dams' held in Turkey,
vironment than do others. The cities of the
Oberai, R R (1999): 'Large Hydro Projects-
IV country are grossly polluted on account of Benefits and Concerns', paper presented in an
Conclusion vehicular emissions, burning of fossil international conference on Hydel Power and
fuels, industry, etc. While trying to reduce River Valley Development, Delhi, December.
One may argue that if hydel power pollution,
is our efforts should be to Sharma, Ravinder (nd): 'Planning and
so cheap and economical, then why are ensure fulfil basic human needs of the Implementation of Large Dams', Narmada
Valley Development Authority, unpublished.
thermal power plants being set up at all?population.
Verma, C V J (1999): 'The Imperatives of Dams
However, it should be noted that hydelToday in India, there is no better Projects', paper presented at 'International
power has a potential of 84,044 MW alternative
at to hydel projects and hydel Workshop on Benefits and Concern About
power. The apprehensions over hydel
60 per cent load factor, mainly in northern Dams' held in Turkey, September.
and north-eastern regions and this source
alone cannot fulfil the demand for power
of the whole country. The potential of REVIEW OF AGRICULTURE
hydel power in south and west has almost
been created or is under construction. December 25, 1999
Further the load centres of the power are
Dilemmas in Food Policy: About Institutional Contradictions
scattered all across the country. It is
believed that a mix of 60:40 in favour of and Vested Interests -Jos Mooij
Understanding the Costs of the Food Corpo
thermal power could be best suited for the
of India -Madhura Swaminathan
country. At present this ratio is 76:24.
Installation of hydro plants will help in Marginalisation Process in Agricult
improving operational reliability, stability Outlook and Policy Implications -V M Rao, H G Hanumappa
of power system and also in optimising New Technology and Process of Differentiation:
operational economy. Two Sugarcane Cultivating Villages in UP -Kalim Siddiqui
Despite the above, planners, promoters
and lenders still hesitate to support hydel Liberalisation of Agricultural Trade and Net Social
projects. A lot of doubts are raised about Welfare: A Study of Selected Crops -Ramesh Chand
them on account of the effect on ecology, Agriculture in India and Pakistan, 1900-95: Productivity
and RR issues. There are only a few lenders and Crop Mix -Takashi Kurosaki
and promoters of hydel projects as there
is fear that such projects would be inor- For copies write to
dinately delayed or rate of return on their Circulation Manager
investment would not be appropriate. In Economic and Political Weekl
case of thermal projects, since most of the Hitkari House, 284, Shahid Bhaga
expenditure is on equipment, projects can Mumbai 400 001
be funded by suppliers' credit. Since hydel

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